“Complex is NOT complicated.” Nicolas Perony’s TED Talk has got me wondering(click the image above to go to the talk)
‘Something complicated is comprised of many small parts, all different and each has its own precise role.’ Something complex is made of many similar parts and it is their interaction that creates a globally coherent behaviour.
Are schools and schooling complicated or complex?
Can teachers be considered similar and, thus, schools can be considered complex? Complex systems have many interacting parts that operate on simple individual rules and these result in emergent properties. If so, I wonder what the simple rules are that result in the emergent property that is schooling?
There are a vast array of simple rules that operate each day inside each complex classroom environment. The teacher navigates these, at best, to foster learning and, at worst, to survive.
The staff room, faculty room and teacher workrooms are also complex systems where simple and often covert rules drive the schooling experience.
In the Power Of Habit, Charles Duhigg writes about keystone habits; small habits that can drive bigger change. I find this intriguing. If we remove the teacher desk, for example, will that drive a bigger change toward increased interaction at the student desk at the time of learning and will this create conditions within which might emerge the practice of guided mastery and co-learning?
What role do the established habits/rule have in creating the school vibe? Are these the sources of the feeling one gets when visiting a school? Are these the dominant forces in bringing about real change or in resisting it?
The behaviour of the system as a whole cannot be predicted based on the individual rules only. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
As the Chief Agent Of Change, I must be sensitive to consider the staff spaces as complex systems and be mindful that the simple rules within can either support growth or work against it.
I wonder if the failure of many change initiatives are the result of a failure to take into account the complex nature of the staff community. The most dynamic professional development or training session complete with the most tasty of buffet lunches, that fails to consider the simple rules operating between those in attendance may continue to have little to no impact.
“At our noblest, we announce to the darkness that we will not be diminished by the brevity of our lives.” But, who’s kidding who? The smattering of even the best work Principals do to bring about change is useless if we are not looking beyond the shadows and beyond into the rules that drive the behaviour of the complex machine.